• Kyodo


Empress Masako conducted her first official duties Wednesday in her own capacity since her husband, Emperor Naruhito, ascended to the throne at the beginning of the month.

The 55-year-old empress, who has been steadily recovering from an adjustment disorder, appeared at the Japanese Red Cross Society’s annual gathering in Tokyo. She became honorary president of the organization May 1, succeeding Empress Emerita Michiko in the position.

The event at the Meiji Jingu hall in Shibuya Ward was also attended by Crown Princess Kiko, honorary vice president of the society, and other members of the imperial family.

Last May, Empress Masako, who was then crown princess, attended the Red Cross gathering for the first time in 15 years, in one of the more recent signs of her steady recovery from her stress-linked illness.

When the historic imperial succession took place May 1 and Emperor Naruhito succeeding Emperor Emeritus Akihito, who had abdicated the day before, Grand Chamberlain Nobutake Odano said the Imperial Household Agency would carefully consider the health condition of the new empress.

After abandoning her career as a diplomat to marry the emperor, she fell ill around December 2003 and was later diagnosed as having an adjustment disorder.

The Oxford- and Harvard-educated empress had faced pressures to bear a male who can succeed the Chrysanthemum Throne and continued to face such pressure after giving birth to Princess Aiko in December 2001. Japanese law limits the imperial succession to males. At one point the empress withdrew from all official duties, but has been expanding the scope of her activities in recent years.

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